The following are previews and betting tips for week 1 of the A-League 2011-12 finals series.
CHEEKY FINALS WEEK 1 A-LEAGUE MULTI
Wellington to win or draw @ 1.36
Brisbane v Central Coast under 3.5 goals @ 1.33
Perth to win @ 2.05
Combined odds @ 3.70 (TAB Sportsbet)
FRIDAY (MAR 30)
ELIMINATION FINAL: Wellington Phoenix v Sydney FC (AEDT 1800)
Finals football will kick off in style as Wellington host Sydney in this do or die elimination final at Westpac Stadium early on Friday night. Pleasingly, both teams are just about at full strength, with Phoenix playmaker Daniel returning to the squad after a month long layoff. Sydney will be well used to the tense nature of this match as each of the Sky Blues previous three matches have been virtual elimination finals!
The recent results gained by Sydney prove they are a worthy finalist, however the Phoenix will be pleased to have drawn the glamour club, having beaten the Sky Blues all three times the sides have played this season. Paul Ifill has been particularly effective in those matches, netting in each of those three games.
Sydney, known fondly as the ‘Latecomers’ in this column due to their knack for scoring crucial late goals, have to keep things tight from the start to limit the crowd’s enthusiasm, then press forward on the counter attack. Wellington’s passionate ‘yellow fever’ crowd carried them to two home finals wins during the 2009-10 season, perhaps they can inspire another famous win for their team.
Andy’s Bet: Wellington to win @ 2.27 (Centrebet)
SATURDAY (MAR 31)
MAJOR SEMI FINAL: Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners (AEDT 1730)
Central Coast and Brisbane fans will feel like they’ve been doing the time warp! This matchup is a replay of last year’s major semi final, but that is great news for neutrals as these two teams have built up a healthy rivalry in recent seasons. Amazingly, this will be the tenth meeting between the clubs since the beginning of last season and in that time the Mariners have only been able to sneak a single victory. Also worth noting is the tight nature of the matches, four out of the last six clashes have seen only two or fewer goals scored. Both teams will be especially cagey in this match as they look to remain in the contest for the second leg. This will be as pressure-packed as it will be exciting!
Brisbane are the form team of the league and deserve favouritism as they enter the finals on an 8 game unbeaten run. Central Coast seemed to be faltering, losing three games during that time, however a win in Wellington last week will have restored some of that lost confidence.
In tight games a touch of class is usually required to break the deadlock and Brisbane’s in form forward Besart Berisha is just the man to strike on the big occasion. I think he can shoot Brisbane into a slender advantage heading into the second leg.
Andy’s Bet: Brisbane to win @ 2.10 (Sportingbet)
SUNDAY (APR 1)
ELIMINATION FINAL: Perth Glory v Melbourne Heart (AEDT 1900)
The second elimination final takes place in Perth on Sunday night as the Glory host the Melbourne Heart. It is a finals debut for the Heart and the visitors will be hoping a certain trend between these two in the regular season continues. In the three matches they’ve played during 2011-12, the away team has won 2-1 each time. Rather than being concerned by that trend, I think the Glory will believe that if they can beat the Heart twice in Melbourne, surely they can do it once in Perth!
Shane Smeltz will be feeling especially confident heading into this finals series. Perth’s lethal finisher knocked in four goals against the Melbourne Victory at this ground last week and has terrorised the Heart this season too, slotting through three goals in three matches against the red and whites.
Perth get five players back from injury or suspension this week, including pivotal midfield playmaker Liam Miller. The Irishman has been back to full health for the last fortnight, but coach Ian Ferguson has kept him in cotton wool until the finals. The Glory look too strong all over the park and should live to fight another day.
Andy’s Bet: Perth to win @ 2.05 (TAB Sportsbet)
Andy’s Bet: Shane Smeltz first goalscorer @ 4.50 (Sportsbet)